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Posts from the "London Breed" Category

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Fell Street Bike Lane Still Popular Among Bike Commuters, Parked Trucks

Ted and Al’s Towing trucks are routine sights in the Fell Street bike lane. Photo: Patrick Traughber/Twitter

The more than 1,800 people who use the buffered, curbside bike lane on Fell Street every weekday continue to be faced with a familiar hazard: parked trucks.

Photo: Gisela Schmoll

As we’ve reported, drivers, including SFPD officers, routinely park in the Fell bike lane with impunity. The vast majority of violators appear to be accessing three businesses on Fell between Divisadero and Broderick Streets: Ted and Al’s Towing, Bank of America, and Falletti’s Foods (which is actually around the corner and has a loading area). Drivers also line up along the curb in front of the Arco gas station at Divisadero, but the SFMTA made that queue legitimate by re-striping the section in 2010.

“It is so bad that frankly, there may as well be no bike lane as almost every time I ride or walk past here I see someone parking in it,” bike commuter Gisella Schmoll wrote in an email to D5 Supervisor London Breed.

Schmoll said the “worst offenders” are Ted and Al’s Towing trucks, whose drivers “are clearly not loading or unloading; often the driver is just sitting in their truck.” As a regular user of the Fell bike lane, I can also attest to that.

As reported in a nationwide study of protected bike lanes released this week by Portland State University, bike traffic on Fell increased 46 percent in the first year after the bike lane was upgraded from a skinny door-zone lane to a wide, curbside, buffered lane. All car parking along the south sides of Fell, and its one-way counterpart Oak Street, was removed for three blocks to make room for the bike lanes. The SFMTA tracks bike traffic on Fell with an in-ground sensor, and its data are posted online every day.

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Muni Tests Train With More Standing Room, Supes Breed and Wiener Approve

Photos courtesy of Supervisor London Breed’s office.

A Muni train car re-configured with fewer seats and more standing room was put into Metro service this week. According to the SFMTA, 14 “double-wide” seats were replaced with “single-wide” seats, adding a net capacity gain of “at least ten” riders to the car, which is a pilot project to squeeze more capacity onto Muni’s trains.

SFMTA officials, along with Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener, rode the car on the N-Judah yesterday morning. I was also supposed to be there, but in regular Muni fashion, the train wasn’t on time — in fact, it was inexplicably half an hour early. Fortunately, Breed’s office passed along some rare photos of public officials riding Muni.

While Muni riders wait for a fleet of 200 new train cars, “I am committed to doing everything possible to help Muni riders, and I look forward to hearing directly from them about this pilot design,” said Breed in a statement. “This design will create more space for Muni riders, who are too often forced to wedge onto full trains or wait at the station in hope for room on the next one.

From left to right: Supervisor London Breed, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Muni Operations Director John Haley enjoy the additional standing room.

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Pandering to the Parking-First Contingent Won’t Win Transportation Funding

Some pretty specious rationales are being used to peddle some pretty terrible recent transportation policy decisions in San Francisco. Yesterday, the SFMTA Board of Directors repealed Sunday parking metering, caving to pressure from Mayor Ed Lee. Board members said they bought into the mayor’s thinking that bringing back free Sunday parking would help win support for transportation funding measures on the November ballot.

We’ve explained why the mayor’s claims of an anti-meter popular backlash are unfounded, as the real push appeared to come from church leaders. But at City Hall, this faulty strategy of backtracking on solid efforts to improve transit and street safety seems to be popular among among decision-makers besides the mayor. In another recent case of the city watering down a great project, the SFMTA downsized transit bulb-outs in the Inner Sunset to preserve parking for a vocal minority who complained. Supervisor London Breed basically said that tip-toeing around the parking-first contingent is necessary to ensure that voters approve new funding for transit improvements down the line.

“They’re pandering to a specific group of motorists — the loudest opponents — who are never going to support these programs,” said Jason Henderson, author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener debated the merits of pandering to cars-first voters last week. Photo left: Office of London Breed, Photo right: Aaron Bialick

Supervisors London Breed and Scott Wiener debated the merits of pandering to cars-first voters last week. Photo left: Office of London Breed, Photo right: Aaron Bialick

At a supervisors committee meeting last week on the SFMTA’s budget, which relies heavily on the ballot measures to fund planned transit and safety improvements, Breed said she’s ”trying to understand how we’re going to convince voters, especially drivers, to spend a lot of money.”

Breed said that while city officials like her might understand the connection between making walking, biking, and transit more attractive and cutting congestion and parking demand, many voters may not be so savvy. ”We’re asking drivers to basically foot the bill for all of the improvements, and we’re taking away parking spaces, making things a lot more — what drivers believe, and have expressed in my district — more difficult,” Breed told SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

Breed also said she was concerned that the city doesn’t have a plan B for funding the Bicycle Strategy, the WalkFirst pedestrian strategy upgrades, and the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project. The three ballot measures would fund about half of the bicycle and pedestrian improvements called for, and most of the Muni TEP. “It sounds like we’re taking it for granted that this is actually going to pass,” said Breed.

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Supervisor London Breed Won’t Fight for Full Transit Bulbs on Irving Street

D5 Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes the Inner Sunset, says that the downsized proposals for transit bulbs on Irving Street and Ninth Avenue are “headed in the right direction,” according to Conor Johnston, a legislative aide.

Photo: Office of Supervisor London Breed

“We are balancing a lot of competing interests,” Johnston told Streetsblog, citing vocal opposition from neighbors and merchants to parking removal.

City surveys showed strong support in the neighborhood for sidewalk extensions to make boarding easier along the full length of two-car Muni trains. They also found that the vast majority of people get to Ninth and Irving without a car, a finding consistent with a number of other commercial districts where travel surveys have been conducted. Nevertheless, to preserve car parking, the SFMTA downsized the bulb-outs to less than half the full-length proposals.

Johnston said the parking-first opponents have been vocal, which largely drove the SFMTA’s decision. ”We’ve been contacted by residents and a number of merchants who didn’t want full-length bulb-outs, a lot of whom didn’t want any changes at all,” he said. “As with any democratic process, it’s a balance, a matter of finding consensus.”

Sure, give-and-take can be positive if it produces a better result — streets that are safer and more efficient. But democracy doesn’t mean catering to the loudest complainers and tossing aside the city’s purported “Transit First” commitment, which is supposed to prioritize the most efficient modes — transit, walking, and biking — in the allocation of street space. Is it more democratic to delay and inconvenience thousands of transit passengers each day so that a few dozen people can store their cars on a public street?

When Supervisor Breed took office over a year ago, she indicated that she gets it. “As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she told Streetsblog in February of last year. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”

Breed’s position is crucial — we’ve seen in many transportation projects that a supervisor’s support (or opposition) can make a real difference, leading city agencies to stay the course on transit and street safety upgrades. She helped face down the naysayers when it came to implementing a protected bikeway on Fell and Oak Streets. In this case, however, Breed is okay with letting a loud and irrational subset of cars-first residents dictate the extent to which transit and walking will be improved.

The Inner Sunset Park Neighbors hasn’t taken an official position on the project. The proposal went to a public comment hearing on Friday and is scheduled for consideration by the SFMTA Board of Directors on March 28.

Update: In the comment section of this article, Johnston said that appeasing opponents is important to ensure support for the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project and the vehicle license fee increase and General Obligation bond measures headed to the ballot in November: “If the MTA or we pushed the 2nd car bulb outs (or anything else) ‘opposition-be-damned,’ it would leave a very bad taste in the community’s mouth and jeopardize much greater efforts. Absent collaboration, public sentiment can turn against not only the TEP but the VLF and GO bonds, all of which need support and are far, far more important to our transit first goals than a 2nd car bulb out in the Inner Sunset.”

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GG Bridge Toll Hikes Approved 15-2, Supes Campos and Breed Opposed

When the plan for much-needed toll hikes on the Golden Gate Bridge was approved Friday, the only opponents on the GG Bridge Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors were Supervisors David Campos and London Breed.

Supervisors David Campos and London Breed, the only members of the bridge board to vote against toll hikes. Photos: Board of Supervisors

All other 15 members who voted, including Marin County reps, apparently understood the need to fund rising infrastructure costs for the bridge by increasing tolls for the drivers who use it. In recent years, the board tolls have not risen as quickly as fares for Golden Gate Transit, which has also seen service cuts — a pattern that unfairly burdens bus riders and induces more car traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge district has also cut costs by eliminating toll takers and switching to all-electronic tolling, getting district employees to pay for a larger share of their benefits, and bringing in new revenue by charging for parking at the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal.

But that apparently wasn’t enough for Campos and Breed, who said they wouldn’t approve toll hikes until they were sure every possible cost-cutting measure had been taken, according to the SF Chronicle. ”We have to demonstrate that we have done everything we can before we vote to increase tolls,” Campos said. “It may be that toll increases are essential and necessary, but I don’t know that we’ve demonstrated that.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who also sits on the bridge board, pointed out that the hikes would only “go up at about the rate of inflation.”

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Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?”

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

In her initial answer, Breed cited “the bad behavior of some bicyclist,” which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she’s “not blaming anyone,” and that she’s “been fighting to help make streets safer for all,” but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here’s what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it’s too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I’ve voted for every bike project that’s come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists’ behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists’ behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns — whether you think they’re accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong — make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I’ve faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I’ve stood strong in my support. That’s my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn’t think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber’s question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials’ understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

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The Faulty Assumptions Behind Supervisor London Breed’s Bike Tweets

Screenshot from Mike Sonn

In response to a Twitter inquiry this morning about what she deems to be “the “biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling,” D5 Supervisor London Breed blamed “the bad behavior of some bicyclist” [sic]. She then argued with several Twitter users before suddenly deleting her Twitter account.

Mike Sonn got a screenshot of the initial tweet “in case she deletes it” (quick thinking), as well as [update below] some of Breed’s follow-up tweets. Breed said that she was just being honest, and argued that when she goes to community meetings about street safety, “they’re all about bad biking behavior,” which she has trouble defending.

The underlying assumption in this argument is that cycling is an activity for a distinct class of people, rather than just a way of getting around. According to this way of thinking, the city cannot implement proven redesigns that make streets safer for the general population until this “class” exhibits suitable behavior. Imagine if you applied the same logic to car infrastructure: No highway or garage would ever be built until we sorted out all the speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving that kills thousands of Americans each year.

Lumping “cyclists” together as a class fails to consider the large number of San Franciscans who say they’d ride a bike more if streets were made safer. The perceived bad behavior of some people who already ride bikes should not dictate whether we make streets safer for mothers, kids, and all San Franciscans.

It’s very disappointing to hear this sort of nonsense from the supervisor who took credit for expediting the installation of the protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets. That (still incomplete) project has provided a safer, more inviting route for District 5 residents who might otherwise feel too intimidated to hop on a bike.

As for the actual barriers to safer streets for bicycling, a more accurate answer would be the lack of political leadership at City Hall to stand behind street safety redesigns and prioritize funding for bike infrastructure.

Update: Commenter murphstahoe posted his record of his Twitter conversation with Breed following the initial tweet:

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Bike to Work Day at City Hall: Lots of Pro-Bike Talk, Few Real Commitments

Elected officials and thousands of commuters took to two wheels for the 19th annual Bike to Work Day, welcomed by the new protected bike lane on Oak Street and the city’s first bicycle counter on Market Street. As in the past few years, the mayor and city supervisors gathered on the steps of City Hall to give speeches cheering bicycling, with some calling for the implementation of more bike lanes.

Supervisor David Chiu neglected to mention Polk Street in his Bike to Work Day speech. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The event saw record-breaking bike traffic counts, according to manual counts by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which found that bikes accounted for 76 percent of eastbound vehicle traffic on Market at Van Ness Avenue between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. — a three percent increase in bike traffic over last year, and a nearly 30 percent increase since 2009.

By 9 a.m., the new digital bike counter on eastbound Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets displayed a total of 1,300 bicycle commuters. (That may be an underestimate, as riders who didn’t run over sensors in the bike lane appeared to not be counted.)

While city leaders had a few recent improvements to point to, important issues went unaddressed. At the podium, Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, which he has so far refused to fund.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors’ supposed bike champion, David Chiu, said nothing about Polk Street – the vital bicycling corridor on which the rally was held, where the SFMTA has ruled out plans for protected bike lanes on all but six blocks. His omission didn’t seem to sit well with several rally attendees, who, after Chiu’s speech, shouted “Polk Street!”

Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the need to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure on the 19th annual Bike to Work Day. Meanwhile, Morgan Fitzgibbons (out of the frame) holds a sign in the back reading, "19th Annual Photo Op & Empty Promises Day.” Photo: Aaron Bialick

After the rally, when Chiu was asked if he planned to take a stand for protected bike lanes on Polk, he declined to do so, instead characterizing himself as a mediator between street safety advocates and parking-obsessed merchants. “I think there has not been enough dialogue between the various sides of this perspective,” he said. “On the one hand, we’ve had significant safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists on a thoroughfare that is used every single day by thousands of folks. On the other hand, the plight of our small businesses is very, very real.”

“I do hope we will have more protected bikeways around the city,” he said. “The question is if that should be for all of Polk Street.”

Chiu, along with Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos — who represent San Francisco on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission – did call for an increase in the city’s abysmal level of investment in bicycling, currently 0.46 percent of the capital budget.

“We’ve got to get real here,” said Wiener. “If we don’t put our money where our mouth is and start investing in bike infrastructure, in Muni, it’s not going to happen as fast as we need it to happen. I want to move fast, and I want us to invest and transform our city into a city where we can get around in all sorts of different ways, including biking.”

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Supes Urge Regional Funding for Complete Street Redesign of Masonic

Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed.

The plan to overhaul deadly Masonic Avenue with pedestrian safety upgrades and raised, protected bike lanes could get much of its funding from a regional grant program. The Masonic project has received a strong endorsement from three members of the Board of Supervisors, who sent a letter last week to the head of the SF County Transportation Authority, urging the agency to make Masonic a priority as it decides which projects it will recommend to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for funding.

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

Chances that the $20 million project will get a substantial chunk from the MTC’s “One Bay Area Grant” are promising. When the SFCTA presented [PDF] its initial list of ten potential OBAG projects in December, Masonic was in the “upper tier.” It remains to be seen how much funding will go to Masonic, which along with other projects, such as the redesign of Second Street, is in the running for a limited pool of funds. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency applied for $16 million in OBAG funds for Masonic, but the SFCTA says only $35 million will be available for $54 million in funding requests citywide.

In their letter to SFCTA Acting Executive Director Maria Lombardo [PDF], Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed pointed to “a number of high-profile collisions and fatalities on this route in recent years,” asserting that “we must act fast to improve this corridor.”

We recognize there are multiple candidate projects with needs exceeding the total available funds, but we ask you to prioritize Masonic Avenue. We consider it a matter of public safety. The project will rectify what is now a fundamentally unsafe street design. It will also improve transit on a major north-south corridor, reduce environmental impact, and increase livability, thus meeting all the criteria established in the Transportation Plan.

Masonic is the only north-south bike route in the area, but is currently very unsafe and unappealing for most riders. The sidewalk bulb-outs, grade-separated bikeways, and tree-lined median are desperately needed on Masonic Avenue.

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Supervisors London Breed and Norman Yee Talk Transportation Priorities

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San Francisco has two new faces on the Board of Supervisors: London Breed, representing District 5, and Norman Yee, representing District 7, both inaugurated last month after winning election in November. At a meeting of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors last week, Streetsblog asked the two San Francisco natives to talk about their priorities for improving streets and transportation, both in the neighborhoods they represent and throughout the city.

London Breed

London Breed. Photo: Nathan Codd, Local Addition

District 5 is undergoing some major transportation improvements, including bike/ped upgrades on the Wiggle – one of the city’s most heavily-cycled routes for commuters in the western neighborhoods — and planned improvements on the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line.

Representing neighborhoods like the Western Addition, Japantown, the Upper and Lower Haight, North of Panandle, the Inner Sunset, and Cole Valley, Supervisor Breed emphasized the long view of how transportation planning can accommodate a growing population. “We have to do more, because we have more people walking, more people using public transportation, more people riding bicycles, and the projections in the next 10 to 15 years are really high,” Breed said. “We’re going to have more people in San Francisco, and more people using these modes of transportation.”

“As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she added. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”

Breed noted the challenges of procuring funding for transportation improvements like the unfunded $20 million plan to redesign Masonic Avenue for better walking, biking, and transit. “Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight solution, because the costs associated with making those changes are expensive,” she said.

Breed didn’t go into other specifics on pedestrian and bicycle safety at the meeting, but the “Transportation” page on her campaign website says she supports the SF Bicycle Coalition’s “Connecting the City” vision for a network of protected bikeways, and specifically endorses the Fell and Oak bike and pedestrian improvements underway:

As a kid, my friends and I used to roller skate the Wiggle long before we even knew it was ‘The Wiggle.’ I think the Wiggle should be an economic gateway and a shining example of what bike transit can be.

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